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It Really Is Brain Surgery

LCM Student Avraham Michalowicz Shadows Neurosurgeon

September 26, 2017
Avraham Michalowicz spent his summer shadowing a neurosurgeon.
Avraham Michalowicz spent his summer shadowing a neurosurgeon.

“I get to see everything,” explained Michalowicz who shadowed a prominent neurosurgeon, Dr. Saleh Almenawer, at the Hamilton General Hospital. “It’s the best educational experience I’ve ever had. Everything I learned in biology class I’m actually seeing.”

“I was at the clinic when Dr. Almenawer saw patients and scheduled them for surgery,” continued Michalowicz. “I was there with him during the surgery and he explained each step. And I met with the family after the surgery.”

It’s an intense look at the medical field for Michalowicz, who is a biology major. The experience also upended a popular stereotype of surgeons for him.

“There’s a stereotype that surgeons aren’t the type of people who talk to their patients, but Dr. Almenawer is the exact opposite,” said Michalowicz. “He spends time talking to them. He communicates with them. He’ll run to the family—not walk—but run to the family after surgery.”

As part of his shadowing experience, Michalowicz participated in research promoting the use of a less-invasive procedure for a common, yet serious, medical ailment.

“There’s something called a chronic subdural hematoma,” explained Michalowicz. “It’s basically when you have a bleed in your brain. It’s a minor head injury. The people most at risk of a hematoma are the elderly, people on anti-coagulates and alcoholics. The question is how do we treat it?”

There are several ways, explained Michalowicz. The least invasive is the use of a twist drill though it is used in only five percent of the cases.

“It’s a method that Dr. Almenawer is really pushing,” he said. “We looked into a lot of the literature and did a meta-analysis. Using a twist drill is much less traumatic and cheaper. There’s no need for general anesthesia and the procedure can be done in a clinic.”

Michalowicz said there was another thing he gained from the experience: a role model.

“There’s so much more to medicine than just giving out medication and operating,” said Michalowicz. “Dr. Almenawer is an excellent doctor because he spends time with his patients; he really cares about them. Medicine isn’t just following a procedure, it’s about really healing the person in their totality.”